Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Karl Puschmann: Why it's okay to like 'dad rock'

Things have to change to accommodate the little bundle of joy.
Who can forget Bruce Springsteen's compelling 1980 classic The River. Picture / Christ Loufte
Who can forget Bruce Springsteen's compelling 1980 classic The River. Picture / Christ Loufte

To most music lovers the words 'dad' and 'rock' combine to form the most vile and objectionable term imaginable. To those people I have a simple message; 'Get off my lawn'.

That's right. Today I'm coming out in defense of dad rock. For far too long the genre's been considered the musical equivalent of a dirty word. It's been derided as deeply uncool, shunned as an audio embarrassment and slammed as something that you'd never willingly listen to.

But why? Dad rock is just rock music, man. Albeit, rock music that's been turned down to four as opposed to being cranked up to 11 and rock music that gave up partying every night in favour of being all tucked up in bed and snoring loudly at a sensible hour.

Forget the jungle. Snoozing by 10:00pm sounds like paradise city when you're a dad rocker.

The cool kids may prefer music made with two turntables and a microphone - although that reference is so old now it would just about qualify for induction into the dad rock canon - but the popularity of guitar bands continues going strong.

So if rock music - whether it's indie, punk, classic or alternative - remains popular, why is there so much mockery and ridicule lobbed at the variety scorned as 'dad'?

Is it because dad rock is old rock?

Sure, if you wanted to - and I often do want to - you could comfortably spend your evenings rocking out quietly to the whiskey smooth, 1978 stylings of early Dire Straits, or sympathising with the weary, hard living reflection of Bachman Turner Overdrive's terrific 1975 album Head On or grooving along to the sophisticated jazz-rock fusion of Steely Dan's 1977 classy albumAja. But you really don't have to.

You can keep it cutting edge and current by keeping up with the new dad rock coming out.

Just this week the critically acclaimed, alt-rock group Wilco released their new album Schmilco, the title surely a nod to Harry Nillson's 1971 dad rock classic Schmilsson.

With its acoustic guitar riffage, unfussy electric gat flourishes, muffled drum shuffle and slightly crabby lyrics, Schmilco can only be labelled dad rock. Which means it will never be labelled cool. A shame, because it's a really good album that I recommend giving a spin.

So with countless people hating on dad rock how does it manage to survive? The genre continues to gain legions of new fans each passing year, and stubbornly refuses to go silently into the night.

Well, I've thought about this. Usually mid-evening while spinning something dope as hell like The Alan Parsons Project's sensational 1977 landmark I, Robot or Paul McCartney's odd 1980 experiment McCartney II or Bruce Springsteen's compelling 1980 classic The River.

And now I'm pleased to report that I think I've cracked it, made the discovery, found the answer. It's surprisingly simple. Here it is: dad rock endures because babies keep being born.

You see, the big problem with having a baby is that it ruins your life. Don't get me wrong, there's also a lot of positives. But things obviously have to change to accommodate the little bundle of wonder and joy and magic that you are now charged with keeping alive.

As anyone who has had one can confirm, babies don't really do a whole lot at the begining. Mainly they eat, cry and sleep. Coincidentally the exact same things I was doing in those early months of fatherhood.

This presents a massive problem for music listeners. If the baby's asleep you can't crank your stereo for fear of waking it. But conversely, if the baby's awake you can't crank your stereo for fear of attracting the terrifying ire of your exhausted spouse.

So given the option of no rock or soft rock you'll find yourself reaching for the timeless pop-rock of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (1977) or, perhaps, Neil Young's country tinged favourite Harvest (1972) in no time.

Basically, you find yourself stuck between soft rock and a hard place.

The sad truth is that a lot of music sounds totally suckful at low volumes. Indeed some genres are rendered entirely unlistenable without the power of plenty of decibels behind them.

Dad rock, however, thrives within the strict confines of these harsh listening conditions. Not least because a lot of it was recorded at a time when sonic clarity, audio definition and musical dynamics were prized qualities. It makes for supremely easy listening. Especially at low volumes.

You quickly come to appreciate - nay love - the subtle mastery of these musicians, the grizzled tales, and the inventive musical journeys that these old rock classics take you on.

The reason dad rock rules is because it's as comfortable as a pair of well-loved slippers, and just as easy to slip into.

But mostly you appreciate that it won't wake the baby.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

A pop culture junkie, Karl has spent his career writing about the important things in life; music, film, television, comics and video games. He was editor of a popular music rag for five years and has since written regularly for every local culture/arts/lifestyle magazine worth a damn. His recent expansion into travel writing has flung him far, far from the comfort of his couch and into that bewildering place known as the ‘outdoors’. He is also currently endeavouring to make sense of the world by reviewing it over at critikarlreviewstheworld.com

Read more by Karl Puschmann

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 27 Sep 2016 02:57:49 Processing Time: 523ms